The Wonders of Creation


Zakarīyā Ibn Muḥammad al-Qazwīnī (1203–83) spent most of his life in present-day Iran and Iraq and served as a judge in Wasit and Hilla, Iraq, during the reign of the last Abbasid caliph, Musta‘sim (1240–58). Al-Qazwīnī was also a geographer and natural historian, and known for his encyclopedic knowledge. This work, Kitāb ‘Ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt wa-gharā’ib al-mawjūdāt (The wonders of creation, or literally, Marvels of things created and miraculous aspects of things existing), probably was written in the sixth decade of the 13th century and is considered the most famous Islamic cosmography. The many manuscript copies show that for centuries it was one of the most popular books in the Islamic world. The present manuscript contains numerous schematic drawings of the planets and more than 400 miniatures and paintings. It was completed in 1280, three years before the author’s death, and is the oldest known textual witness to the original work. The first part deals with the celestial world; the second part depicts the earthly world. The cosmography is based on the doctrine of the unity of God and the unity of the universe as divine creation. The portrayal of the angels, who appear unusually agile and vivid, deserves particular attention. The extraordinary use of color in the manuscript turns the angels into bright translucent creatures.

Last updated: April 3, 2018